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 April 17, 2002 | 2240 IST

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Blatter slams Johansson
as bad loser

FIFA president Sepp Blatter slammed his former election rival and UEFA chief Lennart Johansson on Wednesday, calling him a bad loser who deserved a yellow card.

Blatter and Johansson contested the election for the top job in world soccer in 1998 and are again at loggerheads after Johansson questioned the economic management at FIFA in the wake of the collapse of their media partner ISL-ISMM with debts upwards of $300 million.

"I think he deserves a yellow card -- at least," Blatter told Reuters in Oslo, where he was a guest at the Norwegian Football Association's (NFA) 100th anniversary celebrations.

Last week Blatter halted an audit of FIFA's finances which had been started against his wishes, a move which Johansson described as "unacceptable".

Blatter has also been plagued by allegations that his supporters bought votes in the 1998 election.

"I've had a great time and a difficult time as FIFA president, but the difficult times came because those who lost the election are not good footballers," Blatter said. "Good footballers know how to lose."

Blatter faces new opposition in his battle for re-election to FIFA's top job next month with Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou standing against him.

As part of the NFA centenary celebrations, Blatter is due to watch a friendly between Norway and Sweden later on Wednesday.

At the game, Blatter will rub shoulders with Swede Johansson, also a FIFA vice-president, and NFA president and FIFA executive committee member Per Ravn Omdal.

Both men have voiced strong criticism of Blatter, slamming his clamp-down of the investigation by FIFA's ad hoc Internal Audit Committee.

Blatter's comments come after all attempts to hide the deep divisions inside FIFA disappeared last week.

The vitriolic statements made by leading officials in a row over a CONCACAF election involving Blatter and FIFA general-secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen, laid bare the civil war raging at the heart of the organisation.

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